Interview with LIV Young Lawyers
As a committee, what does it mean to be awarded the 2020 Australian Young Lawyer Organisation Award?
The recognition by our peers and the profession is a great honour that acknowledges not only the Young Lawyers Executive but all those that have contributed to the success of the webinar series. Although this has been a challenging year, this award demonstrates the resilience, perseverance and consistency the Young Lawyers have shown to support and encourage law students, young professionals and those new to the profession to network, learn and share.
2020 has been a particularly tough year for Victorians. What has been the impact for lawyers early in their careers?
COVID-19 has had unprecedented impacts on the legal profession especially those new to the profession or studying at law school for the first time. Unlike other years, many law students, graduates and emerging professionals are starting education or a new job from home, siloed from peers and colleagues. This has presented challenges to mental health and wellbeing, job security and lack of connectiveness that we are used to from in person interactions. We have also found that the opportunity for learning by observation has diminished significantly with not being able to see senior lawyers interact with clients, or advocates appear in court.
Can you tell us a little about the work LIV Young Lawyers undertook in during the lockdown periods to assist your members?
The Law Institute of Victoria has continued to support their members offering discounted membership, increased advocacy and unrivalled ethics and wellbeing support. This has extended to our Young Lawyers section which has led the way in digital delivery of events, continual professional development and initiatives to promote a collegial profession. Young Lawyers focused on developing a webinar series including everything from supporting law students, upskilling lawyers and promoting diversity and inclusion.
Not only was this a success but it dissolved the barriers between regional, suburban and metropolitan students and practitioners. This allowed for new connections with those living in regional, rural, interstate and even overseas. The LIV Young Lawyers also demonstrated that consistency and community can still be valued, even in a pandemic, by ensuring there was an event every two weeks where members could connect. This webinar series continued alongside our other law reform advocacy work, consultation on the future of continuing professional development in Victoria and supporting our colleagues in a difficult year.
What’s next for LIV Young Lawyers in 2021 and beyond?
Young Lawyers 2021 will look different as we continue to focus on ways to support our members, we will be more accountable to representing our profession; with our newly elected Executive representing members from diverse backgrounds including but not limited to cultural, nationality, geographically, LGBTIQA+ and universities. The Young Lawyers will provide additional support earlier, targeting those beginning law school while continuing professional support and development for lawyers both young, new and experienced through CPD delivery focusing on technology, innovation and changes to the delivery of legal services due to the pandemic.
From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on, particularly for young lawyers?
Young Lawyers face unique challenges surrounding mental health and wellbeing, sexual harassment and bullying, which have been addressed this year but will continue to be a focal point moving forward. Law reform around the ability for victims to share their stories, reporting of bullying and the inequality of new lawyers and their employers will be priorities for Young Lawyers next year. Representation and promotion of diversity and inclusive behaviour, as well as concentrating on the elimination of the gender pay gap and accessibility of legal services are challenges the 2021 Young Lawyers Executive aims to champion. We are also acutely aware that we need to support our young lawyers as we transition to a COVID-safe profession.